SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- The shot Darren Brooks made gave
Southern Illinois the lead. What Brooks did with the shot he missed
sealed the (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) Salukis' win.
Brooks scored 19 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with
just over 2 minutes left, and rebounded his own missed shot with 24
seconds left in Southern Illinois' 59-58 victory over Southwest
Missouri State on Saturday.
"When we play SMS, we write on the board, 'Rebound War,' "
Southern Illinois coach Matt Painter said. "If you win the battle
of the boards, you're going to beat them."
Stetson Hairston had two clutch free throws and added 15 points
for the Salukis (20-2, 14-0 Missouri Valley Conference), who
reached the 20-win mark for the third straight season and extended
their winning streak over the Bears (15-10, 7-7) to six games.
Southern Illinois won its 12th straight and stayed perfect in
conference play despite shooting just 36 percent (24-for-66) from
"I wouldn't say we're lucky," Brooks said. "I'd say we're a
good team. We had to step up and make plays, and that's what
The Salukis trailed 26-25 at halftime and never led by more than
six points in the second half.
The Salukis led 50-44 on Hairston's three-point play with 9:38
left, but Merrill Andrews scored six points in an 8-0 run that gave
Southwest Missouri State a 52-50 lead with 5:40 to go.
The lead changed hands twice more, the last time on Brooks'
3-pointer that put Southern Illinois up 57-55.
With 27 seconds to go and the shot clock winding down, Brooks
missed from the top of the key but tracked down the ball in the
corner. He passed to Hairston, who hit two free throws with 16
seconds left before Blake Ahearn hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for
Southwest Missouri State.
Ahearn, the NCAA's most accurate free throw shooter (98.9
percent) coming into the game, had a rough time from the line on
The freshman point guard, who missed only one of his first 93
tries and was perfect through the Bears' first 13 conference games,
had his streak end at 60 when he missed the first of two with 12:27
He missed the front end of a 1-and-1 later in the second half,
finishing with 12 points.
"I just missed," Ahearn said. "There's not much more I can
say. I go up there every time knowing I'm going to make it, and I
thought I was going to make those shots."
Nathan Bilyeu also had 12 points for the Bears, including a shot
from the lane that gave them their last lead, 55-54, with 1:22
left. Deven Mitchell and Monwell Randle each added 10 points for
Southwest Missouri State.
Brad Korn, who came in as Southern Illinois' second-leading
scorer at 9.9 points per game, missed his first seven field goal
attempts and finished with four points on 1-for-10 shooting.
He had a key offensive rebound late in the game, though,
tracking down Bryan Turner's missed shot with a minute left. That
set up the possession on which Brooks had the clutch rebound of his
Southwest Missouri State had a 22-17 rebounding edge in the
first half, which helped to offset the Bears' 10 turnovers, but the
Salukis outrebounded them 21-12 in the second half.
"We were only down two, and all we had to do was get a rebound
and go the other way," Randle said. "We never came up with it."